Devon Avenue – Chicago’s "Little India"
Welcome to a city of distinct neighborhoods – where the bartender and barista know your name.
Sometimes dubbed “Little India,” the area around Devon Avenue could almost be a backdrop for a Bollywood film. Brimming with life and aromas imported from the East, it’s a world away from the skyscrapers downtown.
Mannequins draped in colorful saris fill window displays, neon signs jostle for your attention, posters announce the latest Bollywood blockbusters and the smells of curry and spices hang in the air on Chicago’s far north side. Devon Avenue is a multiethnic corridor in the West Ridge neighborhood brimming with Indian and Pakistani culture.
Hema Potla moved here from India about 30 years ago to open a textile shop. When that didn’t work out, she started picking up jobs in restaurant kitchens and worked her way up, finally opening two very successful restaurants of her own.
She says ‘it’s everything’ to be a successful woman business owner on Devon. “I worked hard,” she says. “When the dishwashing guy didn’t come, I washed the dishes too. I’ve done everything.”
At Hema’s Kitchen, every dish is made to order from scratch. When she first opened, she did it all. “I took the orders, I cooked the food and I served the food.”
Sometimes dubbed Little India, this is the place to come and eat a meal then wander in and out of the shops selling aromatic spices and sparkly gold trinkets. For quick snacks and a great vegetarian street food counter, duck into Kamdar Plaza.
Potla says it’s the personal touch that makes her business a success. “My guests are like friends and family. A lot of owners cannot say that.”